About 1,000 hectares of protected forest in Mondulkiri province have been logged under the noses of environment officials, rights group Adhoc and community leaders said yesterday.
Sok Ratha, provincial coordinator for Adhoc, said inspections of the Phnom Nam Lyr wildlife sanctuary in Pech Chreada district on Wednesday uncovered about 1,000 hectares that were forested in October.
“We didn’t see anyone engaged in clearing activities during the inspection, but roughly a thousand hectares of forest have been completely cleared in the past three months,” Rotha said.
“This clearing activity has erupted because the environment department and the authorities have not been paying attention,” he added. “The site manager is aware that the forest is being encroached upon but they don’t take any legal action, such as filing a case with the court. This is a serious violation of the law.”
Kreung Tola, a representative of indigenous communities in the province, said he also joined the inspections on Wednesday, adding that earlier this month, there had been men using chainsaws and axes to cut trees as police and soldiers stood guard.
“The rich and powerful have given the order to clear the forest,” Tola said, explaining that the local authorities appeared to have no interest in intervening. “One patch of forest was cleared just 100 metres from the environment office,” he said.
Keo Sopheak, new head of the province’s environment department, yesterday conceded a few hectares had been logged recently but denied the number was near 1,000.
“After getting a report about forest clearance, we assigned rangers to monitor the situation, but they did not find any offences like those reported by the community,” Sopheak said.
He added that his office had far too few rangers.